“Seasonal columns” are pillars of the columnist’s craft, but I confess to having only two.
One is baseball spring training, and the annual rite of spring “renewal of hope” for one’s favorite team.
Thanksgiving gratitude, of course, is the other.
The spirit of gratitude is an undervalued and unappreciated social value in our society.
Opening a Thanksgiving meal with a prayer of thanks is a convention in many households.
But, are we really grateful?
“Gratitude, thankfulness, or gratefulness, from the Latin word gratus ‘pleasing, thankful,’ is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, towards the giver of such gifts, reports Wikipedia, that authoritative reference.
“Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness,” says the magazine Psychology Today.
It’s an emotion, indeed, it’s a humbling emotion, for people who often don’t want to feel humbled. In fact, many of us even devalue emotion, as I’m reminded when I observe my wife’s penchant for German stoicism, while some of us – me included – gravitate to the expressive side of empathic emotion.
Without becoming political, in the spirit of the controversy surrounding our incumbent president, it’s easy to overlook that generations of presidents have inspired controversy. Remember President Barack Obama’s comment in Roanoke on July 13, 2012, in a re-election campaign speech?
“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that,” a comment that was designed to curry favor for big government that the president said he represented, but instead offended legions of American entrepreneurs and business executives, laden with pride in their accomplishments.
And yet, as much as many of us hate to concede the point, we have benefitted in lives rich with blessings for the abundance that seems characteristic of American life today.
Even the poorest among us today live with an abundance that would have been the envy of our grandparents. However, the inequality of distribution – today’s hot button of a political meme – along with the uncertainty and drama that always seem present in life, too often makes us cynics when we should be grateful.
Cynicism is that great corrupting force. At its heart, it’s narcissistic, lowering our expectations of others and subsequently becoming an excuse for bad behavior, by lowering our expectations of ourselves.
Each of us needs to replace that cynicism with the attitude, spirit and, yes, emotion of gratitude.
Thursday, when you gather around the table, ask yourself, and your family, in the most genuine way you can, “What are we really grateful for in our lives?” Wait for an answer. Answers.
Hopefully, you’ll feel humbled in the process, and you – and all of us – will be better for your question.
Sam Waltz was the founding publisher of the Delaware Business Times.